Motions by the Senate to pass a law for the establishment of six new campuses for the Nigerian Law School met tough and severe oppositions at the National Assembly on Monday with the Nigeria Bar Association, Council for Legal Education, Body of Benchers and some senators, punch revealed.
The known oppositions were faulted by some other senators; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana.
The reason behind the oppositions was that the existing ones had the capacity to accommodate all the law graduates being produced yearly by universities if well-funded, so need for additional campuses.
They also alleged that passing out a legislation to establish campuses for NLS would amount to confiscating the powers of the Council for Legal Education.
But the supporters of new campuses insisted that the current ones were overstretched.
The stakeholders revealed their minds at a one-day public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.
With the proposed legislation titled as:
“A bill for an Act to Amend the Legal Education (Consolidation etc.) Act by Establishing Campuses for the Nigerian Law School, and for other related matters,” which was sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi.
What the Bill is About
The bill yearns for six additional campuses in Kogi State, Borno State, Kebbi, Anambra State, Delta State and Ekiti State.
The Council for Legal Education had also obtained approval for the establishment of a campus in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
In line with the above, Senator Ike Ekweremadu ( PDP Enugu West) and Seriake Dickson ( PDP Bayelsa West) called on their colleagues to be cautious on the proposal .
“The establishment of new campuses or law schools should be left at the discretion of Council for Legal Education as empowered by the Act that set it up in 1962”.
Another opposition was dropped by the President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata (SAN), saying that the move was needless as the existing six campuses were underfunded.
According to him, Governor of Rivers State, Nyensom Wike,
“at a time, had to intervene and save the Balyesa State campus to the tune of N4bn.”
He also said that Governor Wike had devoted huge resources to build and equipped a modern law school campus in Port-Harcourt.
“With the required infrastructure, the existing law schools across the country are enough to accommodate thousands of law students graduating from universities.
The Chairman of the Council for Legal Education(the institution empowered by law to set up a new campus on the basis of need assessment and not political considerations) , Emeka Ngige (SAN), said condition of most of the existing campuses was deplorable due to gross underfunding.
“The move by the Senate through this bill is more or less subtle usurpation of the functions of the Council for Legal Education.”
Not withstanding, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said;
“It is important to clarify certain facts, the Council of legal Education Act, was enacted in 1962 for the creation of one law school.
“Nowhere in the Act that it was ever thought there that we are going to have a multi campus institution.
“In 1999, we had six batches of law students who had no place to go, they contacted me and I had to go court.
The building of the law school in Lagos was already sold to a businessman who wanted to turn it to a hotel when the school moved to Abuja.
“It was only one campus when I went to court and we got an injunction restraining the government from selling the law school in Lagos.
“When the (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo regime came on board, we said instead of having two campuses; why don’t we make it a multi campus, so that we won’t create another problem by asking everybody to come to Lagos or go to Abuja and that was how we have a multi campus law school.
“It was not the idea of the Council of Legal Education. The law has not been amended to empower the Council of Legal Education to create campuses. They have no such power.”
He concluded by urging the lawmakers to deal with the issue of funding to avoid same outcomes with the existing ones.